The Splitting the Rent Formula

by Shilpi Paul

The Splitting the Rent Formula: Figure 1
Courtesy of New York magazine.

This article originally ran in February 2013.

When sharing an apartment or group house, it only seems fair that those in bigger rooms should pay a higher share of the rent. But, how do you factor in features like more windows, a fireplace, or a bigger closet?

Miller Samuel’s Jonathan Miller (who used to do an amazing job analyzing the DC market) takes a stab at how to calculate a fair rent split in an article for New York magazine.

For the article, Miller looks at a two-bedroom apartment with a rent of $3,200 a month.

Miller advocates for dividing the rent by square footage as proportionally as possible. In the example given, room A is 225 square feet, while room B is 175 square feet; this breaks down to a 9/7 ratio. By our calculations, that comes to $1,800 for roommate A and $1,400 for roommate B. (Roommate A is responsible for 56.25 percent of the rent, and roommate B for 43.75 percent.)

If one bedroom has an attached bathroom, said Miller, that should be worth about 2 percent of the monthly rent, or $64 in the example. In the article, room B has a bathroom, so the divide changes: roommate A pays $1,736, and roommate B pays $1,464.

From there, other square-footage adding amenities, like a bigger closet or a terrace, need to be factored in. Miller offers a few equations to help crunch the numbers in a fair manner. After that, various life-enhancing amenities may warrant slight adjustments. For example, a fireplace might with worth about $25 dollars more a month.

While this approach may require you breaking out the TI-82, the fairness of the final result may ultimately mitigate tensions among roommates. Readers, how do you go about dividing up the rent?

Similar Posts:

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/first_timer_primer_splitting_the_rent/6702


  1. Katy said at 9:44 pm on Monday February 25, 2013:
    Calculations are useful ways to figure out the rent, but you almost need "weights" for the varying importance of factors to different people. For example, roommate B may value a walk-in closet and thus may be willing to pay much more, but roommate A values the terrace and could care less about closets (thus would be unwilling to pay more for a closet). It adds more complexity to the formula though.
  1. Ellen said at 9:51 pm on Monday February 25, 2013:
    This would've come in handy when I moved into my place two months ago. I live in a two-bedroom where both bedrooms are about the same size, but my roommate has a private balcony. We arbitrarily agreed she would pay $50 more a month, but now that seems too low a premium.
  1. David said at 10:40 pm on Monday February 25, 2013:
    I like the sq method, but I would tweak the formula to include the entire apartment square footage – not just the bedrooms. Hypothetical - 2000 per month rent. Bedroom 1 (9x11) – 99 sqft. Bedroom 2 (14x16) – 224 sq ft. Both bedrooms share a bath. While Bedroom 2 was obviously a bigger room, it creates a 31-69 ratio meaning Bedroom 2 pays 1380 per month while Bedroom 1 only pays 620 per month. Even if someone wanted the bigger room, no one would ever think that a 760 per month difference would be fair. A better way would be to calculate the ratio using the square footage of the entire apartment, not just the bedrooms. If the apartment was 1000 sq ft – Bedroom 1 has access to 776 sq ft, Bedroom 2 has access to 901 sq ft. This creates a 46-54 ratio. Bedroom 1 pays 920. Bedroom 2 pays 1080.
  1. xmal said at 5:03 pm on Tuesday February 26, 2013:
    Agree with David---I've always split the total rent into two and divided the first half equally (equal access to common amenities) and the second half by square footage of individual spaces. Any more complicated and you can't get anyone to agree on the weights of the different amenities.
  1. Janel said at 3:58 pm on Wednesday February 27, 2013:
    The private bathroom seems highly undervalued (in general). Granted, in this example, there's only two roommates and one private bathroom, which implies that there is a second bathroom to which the other roommate would have full access, which kinda implies they each have their own bathroom. But let's say the rental unit is a four-bedroom house with one of the bedrooms being the master with an ensuite bathroom. The private bathroom is clearly a significant premium since the other roommates would have to share the remaining (and less convenient since they're not attached to the bedrooms) bathrooms.
  1. Jake said at 8:43 pm on Tuesday December 3, 2013:
    Don't need a TI -there's an app for that: http://splitwise.com/calculators/rent
  1. Jeremy said at 2:25 am on Wednesday December 4, 2013:
    As many previous commenters have said, the problem with a formula like this is it doesn't factor in the different preferences and priorities of different people. A formula is probably the only reasonable answer if you expect the roommates to change over time. But if entering the arrangement with a static set of roommates, I think it's the wrong solution. The goal should be to set prices for rooms so everyone is happy with his or her room. If anyone wants to switch, the pricing is wrong. This could occur when using a formula, e.g., Janel's bathroom situation or David's differing room sizes. When the roommates are static, I've always adopted a second-price auction as the mechanism for setting room prices. Consider for example a 2-bedroom at $3200. (It's a bit more complicated for larger groups.) If the roommates prefer different rooms, then the rent should be split evenly at $1600 each. Otherwise, both roommates should bid on the room the maximum amount they are willing to pay. Suppose roommate 1 is willing to pay $1800 and roommate 2 is willing to pay $2500. Then roommate 2 gets the room at $1801/mo. The point is that at this price, neither party should want to switch.
  1. Matt said at 3:33 pm on Thursday December 5, 2013:
    @David @xmal +1
  1. FrugalCalc said at 4:51 pm on Saturday December 7, 2013:
    I like starting with the proportions of rent based on living space sqft breakdown. From there, I think the sqft of a bathroom should be doubled or trippled due to its convenience.

DC Real Estate Guides

Short guides to navigating the DC-area real estate market

We've collected all our helpful guides for buying, selling and renting in and around Washington, DC in one place. Visit guides.urbanturf.com or start browsing below!

Northern Virginia

Profiles of 14 neighborhoods across Northern Virginia

Looking to Give People A Reason to Stay Past 6pm
Happily Straddling the Line Between City and Suburb
Columbia Pike
Arlington’s Neglected Stepchild is Getting a Makeover
Crystal City
Turning Lemons into Lemonade
Lyon Village
Developing An Air of Exclusivity?
Hitting Its Growth Spurt
An Urban Village Hitting Its Stride
Del Ray
Virginia’s Small Town Near the Big City
Eisenhower Avenue
The Vibrancy Might Take a Few Years
The Quiet Neighborhood By the Beltway
Old Town
Mayberry By The Potomac
132 Commerical-Free Acres
Downtown Falls Church
Staying the Same in the Midst of Change
Tysons Corner
Radical Change Could Be On The Way
Real Estate Primer: Northern Virginia

See more Northern Virginia »


Profiles of 14 neighborhoods in suburban Maryland

Small-Town Living in the State Capital
Bedroom Community Gets Buzzing Cache
Cabin John
In With The New While Maintaining the Old
Chevy Chase
Affluence, Green Lawns and Pricey Homes
Downtown Silver Spring
Experiencing a Resurgence After a Bumpy History
A Suburb on Steroids
Rockville Town Square
Despite the Dynamism, Still Somewhat Generic
Takoma Park
More Than a Little Bit Quirky
A Foodie Magnet on the Verge of Change
Capitol Heights
Kudzu, Front Porches and Crime
Glass Half Full or Half Empty?
Mount Rainier
Artists, Affordable Homes and A Silo Full of Corn
National Harbor
A Development Rises Next to the Potomac
Riverdale Park
A Town Looking For Its Identity

See more Maryland »

Northwest DC

30+ neighborhood profiles for the city's biggest quadrant

16th Street Heights
DC's Sleeper Neighborhood
Where (Almost) Everyone Knows Your Name
AU Park
One of DC’s Last Frontiers Before the Suburbs
DC’s Northern Neighborhood on the Cusp
DC’s 535 House Neighborhood
Cathedral Heights
Do You Know Where That Is?
Chevy Chase DC
Not to Be Confused With the Other Chevy Chase
Cleveland Park
Coming Back After A Rough Year
Columbia Heights
DC’s Most Diverse Neighborhood, But For How Long?
An Island of Serenity East of the Park
Dupont Circle
The Best of DC (For a Price)
Foggy Bottom & West End
Where the Institutional Meets the International
Forest Hills
Ambassadors and Adventurous Architecture
Foxhall Village
350 Homes Just West of Georgetown
Friendship Heights
A Shopping Mecca With a Few Places to Live
History, Hoyas and H&M
Glover Park
One of DC’s Preppier and More Family-Friendly Neighborhoods
A Posh View From Embassy Row
LeDroit Park
A Quiet Enclave in the Middle of the City
Logan Circle
Trendy Now, But Not By Accident
Mount Pleasant
Sought-After Homes Surround Main Street in Transition
Mount Vernon Triangle
From Seedy to Sought-After
The Long, Skinny Neighborhood at the City’s Northwest Edge
Park View
It’s Not Petworth
Penn Quarter/Chinatown
DC’s Go-Go-Go Neighborhood
Getting a Vibrancy of Its Own
The Duke’s Former Stomping Ground
Shepherd Park
DC’s Garden of Diversity
Spring Valley
A Suburb With a DC Zip Code
Not To Be Confused With Takoma Park
Not Quite Like Its Neighbors
U Street Corridor
The Difference a Decade Makes
Woodley Park
Deceptively Residential
Adams Morgan
No Longer DC’s Hippest Neighborhood, But Still Loved by Residents

See more Northwest DC »

Southwest DC

The little quadrant that could

Southwest Waterfront
A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come

See more Southwest DC »

Northeast DC

Profiles of 10 neighborhoods in NE

New Development Could Shake Up Pastoral Peace
A Little Bit of Country Just Inside the District’s Borders
Not to Be Confused With Bloomingdale
Fort Totten
Five Years Could Make a Big Difference
H Street
A Place To Party, and To Settle Down
The Northeast Neighborhood That Few Know About
Michigan Park
A Newsletter-On-Your-Doorstep Community
Evolving from a Brand to a Neighborhood
Ripe for Investment Right About Now
The Difference 5 Years Makes
Big Houses, A Dusty Commercial Strip and Potential

See more Northeast DC »

Southeast DC

6 neighborhoods from Capitol Hill to East of the River

Capitol Riverfront
Still Growing
Hill East
Capitol Hill’s Lesser Known Neighbor
Congress Heights
Gradually Rising
Notable for Its Neighborliness
Historic Anacostia
Future Promise Breeds Cautious Optimism
Eastern Market
A More European Way of Living

See more Southeast DC »